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Improving Health for Humanity: Why Corporate Citizenship Is More Important Than Ever
Johnson & Johnson just received a Corporate Citizenship Award from the Committee for Economic Development—a distinction that speaks to the company's commitment to improve the well-being of people and the planet since 1886.
Sandi Peterson on a trip to Mumbai, India

Earlier this week, I was honored to attend the Committee for Economic Development's Distinguished Performance Awards event, where I accepted the Corporate Citizenship Award on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.

In today’s interconnected and complex world, it has never been more vital for companies to step up and play a positive, catalytic, connecting role in helping to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. For Johnson & Johnson, that means using our voice, our know-how and our passion to change the trajectory of health for humanity. As the world’s largest, most broadly based company focused on human health, Johnson & Johnson is uniquely positioned to take a holistic, people-centric approach to human health—one where a healthy mind, body and environment are within reach for everyone, everywhere.

A question I’m often asked is, "What differentiates Johnson & Johnson from other companies?" It’s an interesting question.

This time last year, I was traveling in Asia to experience firsthand what some of my colleagues in the region have been up to. What I saw left me extremely proud, and perhaps answers that question.

First, I traveled to India, where the world’s largest number of people lives below the poverty line, and where there are more anemic and malnourished children and mothers than anywhere on the planet. A recent study shows that more than 40% of pregnant Indian women are underweight, and that a heartbreaking 1 in 190 women die in childbirth—one death almost every 10 minutes.

While in Mumbai, I visited a slum community where a mobile-enabled maternal health program we co-developed called mMitra, or “mobile friend,” is changing the lives of mothers, fathers and children, by giving the mothers information through regular voice and text messages that helps them better care for themselves during their pregnancies and for their newborns.

These women now receive twice-weekly voice calls that provide preventive care information directly to their mobile phones in their chosen language and preferred time slot, corresponding to where they are in pregnancy or the developmental stage of their child. The program will reach over 1 million new and expectant mothers, promoting positive and healthy behaviors in poor urban communities across India.

One of the most memorable parts of that trip was when I had the opportunity to visit Fukushima on the five-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, where more than 20,000 people died or went missing, and hundreds of thousands more lost their homes. Johnson & Johnson is partnering with and supporting organizations to rebuild the region, stronger than ever.

Nearly 75 years ago, a member of the Johnson & Johnson founding family penned Our Credo. It guides us to put the person at the center of everything we do—describing what today we would call 'corporate social responsibility' and 'environmental sustainability' way before the terms were coined.

And closer to home, over the past two weeks we’ve seen the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, resulting in great loss of life and property throughout Texas, the Caribbean and the Southeast U.S., including Puerto Rico and Florida, where we have a significant presence.

Johnson & Johnson employees and our retirees are coming together to help, by activating mobile medical units and product needed for first response; by engaging and supporting our partners on the front lines of care—including Americares, Heart to Heart International, Save the Children and MAP International—as well as government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services; and even instituting our J&J Home Share program in which employees and retirees open space in their homes to others in the Johnson & Johnson family who need temporary shelter.

So what makes Johnson & Johnson different? It’s clear from Mumbai to Fukushima to Houston, and everywhere in between, it’s the people.

We have a remarkable team of employees around the world, all commonly committed to the purpose of our company in a way that’s very genuine. It’s like the story of the high school janitor who, when asked what his job is, says, “I help educate young people.” If you ask a Johnson & Johnson employee what their job is, whether they work in R&D, supply chain or human resources, we all wake up every day committed to improving the health of people around the world.

Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 on the banks of the Raritan River in New Brunswick, New Jersey, making us just over 130 years old. As a startup, we made the world’s first mass-produced sterile surgical supplies, which meant that from our earliest days, Johnson & Johnson’s employees had an impact not just in our community, but in the world. Our community over the years has expanded far beyond that riverside facility and now includes over 250 operating companies in more than 60 countries.

Nearly 75 years ago, on the eve of taking our company public, a member of the Johnson & Johnson founding family penned Our Credo—a document that guides us to do many things beyond what you might typically expect of a company entering the public markets. Our Credo guides us to put the person at the center of everything we do—serving people and communities; treating our employees with great respect, openness and fairness; and protecting the environment and natural resources—describing what today we would call “corporate social responsibility” and “environmental sustainability” way before the terms were coined.

Everything we do is in service of our purpose to improve human health, including our citizenship & sustainability efforts. We have been setting goals to improve the sustainability of our business and the world for decades. In 2016, we launched our latest, most comprehensive set of citizenship & sustainability goals called our Health for Humanity goals.

We remain focused in three distinct, but interconnected, areas:

  • First, people—building on our heritage of global community impact and public health. We’re helping people be healthier by providing better access and care in more places around the world.
  • Second, practices—we’re not in this alone. We’re teaming up with partners and employees to further advance a culture of health and well-being.
  • And third, places—we believe healthy people and a healthy business need a healthy planet, so we’re making the places where we live, work and sell our products healthier, by using fewer and smarter resources that move us closer to a world without waste.

We care for people and the planet like our collective health depends on it, because for us, it does.

I am so honored to play a role in, and be witness to, the passion and incredible outcomes being driven by our company and its people who are committed to changing the trajectory of health for humanity.

Follow Sandi Peterson on LinkedIn
Read more from the Johnson & Johnson Group Worldwide Chair about her vision for the future of healthcare.